Philadelphia’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet today unveiled the city-wide Litter Index, an indexed map of litter conditions on city streets, vacant lots, and other public properties.

From August through December of 2017, staff from six City departments surveyed litter conditions on Philadelphia’s streets, vacant lots, parks and recreation sites, public school sites, green stormwater infrastructure sites, transit stations, and other public rights-of-way using cloud-based surveys.

The surveys were conducted by trained staff from the departments responsible for monitoring these assets: the Streets Department, the Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP), Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Philadelphia Water Department, the School District of Philadelphia, and SEPTA. The Litter Index is a coordinated effort managed through the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet and implemented through the Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT).

Along with an estimated litter count on a City asset or property, field surveyors give a 1-4 litter rating based on metrics from Keep America Beautiful, with a rating of 1 being little to no litter, 2 being litter in the amount that can be picked up by one person, 3 being litter in the amount that would need a team to clean up and 4 being litter that would require a large clean effort and/or heavy machinery to remove.

The data collected through the surveys was used to create an indexed map of litter conditions throughout Philadelphia, which has been published on the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet’s website, There, you can search your address to see an average litter rating for all of the combined public properties in your immediate neighborhood, as well as a weighted average score for the street and vacant lots of your hundred block.

The website also shows a sidebar with information detailing resources available to encourage residents to do their part to keep their neighborhoods clean. If you search your address and find that your area does not have a particular resource (such as a block captain, watershed group, or park friends group), you can click a link to learn how to bring that resource to your neighborhood.

“The result was great for our first survey effort,” said Philadelphia’s Zero Waste and Litter Director Nic Esposito. “However, many of our neighborhoods still have streets and open land with trash accumulations, and it’s our goal to improve these areas. We want the Litter Index to be the tool that connects residents to resources for cleaning and greening their neighborhoods.”

City departments plan to utilize the Litter Index data to make data-driven decisions on operations and policy. The Litter Index survey will continue to take place each year, making it possible to track Philadelphia’s litter conditions over time and document improvements.

This new effort expands on the first city-wide litter index, which was conducted by the Streets Department in 2007.

“We knew this was a powerful tool when we first used it in 2007,” said Philadelphia Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams. “But now with five other departments contributing data along with Streets, we feel that this can be a tool to get to the root of litter issues and create positive systemic change in these neighborhoods.”

About the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet

Philadelphia’s Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet is an interdepartmental effort to continually reduce the waste entering landfills or conventional incinerators, combat litter, and enhance the cleanliness of streets and public spaces. Composed of major City departments and agencies, City Council representatives, community stakeholders, and chaired by the Managing Director’s Office, the Cabinet works across five target areas to make Philadelphia a less littered, zero waste City.